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Breaking Bad: “To’hajiilee” recap

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Special to The Prospector

If there is one thing that “Breaking Bad” has always been great at is escalating the action toward something unexpected and unbearably tense–and this episode was a prime example of exactly that. And boy, does it do it perfectly.

Starting with a meeting between Lydia (Laura Fraser), Todd (Jesse Plemons), Uncle Jack (Michael Bowen) and Kenny (Kevin Rankin), in which they noticed that their 76 percent-quality product doesn’t necessarily contain that “Heisenberg blue” that was emblematic of Walt’s product. It’s a scene that definitely has tension bubbling underneath it, as we learn that it takes place right about the time when Walt (Bryan Cranston) calls up Todd to take care of someone, who of course is Jesse (Aaron Paul).

With a compelling script by George Mastras, where he brought a lot of ideas and visuals full circle (hey, it’s the location where Walt and Jesse cooked for the first time), and perfectly directed by Michelle MacLaren; “To’hajiilee” built up not a only excellent tension, but character moments that we’ve been awaiting since the series first premiered.

After the stunt that Jesse pulled last week, it was great to see him planning along with Hank (Dean Norris) and Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) and their using Jesse as basically a way to get Huell (Lavell Crawford) to tell them the location of Walt’s money. Using animal brains to illustrate Jesse’s faked death was ultimately a pretty genius idea, as Huell completely bought that Walt had killed Jesse (thanks to Hank’s photo).

All that leads to a fantastic scene, where Walt expresses his sentiments about Jesse to Uncle Jack’s team. The way this scene was shot, once again great work by Michael Slovis, was incredibly moody and great at using shadow to contrast what Walt was asking for, which is to get Jesse killed. It’s something that he almost hates to do, but must be done. The team agrees to do the deed, but only if Walt agrees to cook meth one more time. This scene, as well as the entire episode, reminds us about Walt’s incredible transformation throughout the series, and how astounding Bryan Cranston has been in this role.

Following a wonderful, almost light-in-tone, but with touches of tension, scene with Saul (Bob Odenkirk), in which he visits the car wash and is seen by a very enthusiastic Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) and a very nervous Skyler (Anna Gunn); Walt gets a call from Jesse, who sends him a photo showing that they have discovered where Walt buried his money.

With that, Walt embarks on his way toward the desert, where he thinks Jesse will be waiting for him. It was definitely a powerful moment to see Walt confessing to all his crimes to Jesse on the phone, as he finally admitted to him that he was responsible for the poisoning of Brock, and Cranston played the part incredibly.

As he realizes that Jesse has set a trap for him, as he sees Hank’s SUV pull up, it was such a wonderfully quiet moment, with Walt thinking about his actions and him turning himself in. That whole scenario, with Hank ordering him to stand down, played out fantastically–it was one of those moments that the whole series has been building toward. MacLaren’s direction in this was phenomenal, the way the camera just stays on Walter as he is slowly pulls himself toward Hank and you see those handcuffs, it’s so well done and it’s such a brief moment, but it carries so much weight.

And that’s it… Wait, not really! In a standoff worthy of something out of a western, Uncle Jack and his gang, ignoring Walt’s orders to call everything off, decide to confront Hank and Gomez (with Jesse in one of the cars and Walter locked up in another) in a shootout. MacLaren, who has such a great skill in crafting tense sequences that gain momentum as they go on and definitely escalate towards something big, just knocks it straight out of the park for this set piece and the whole episode as well.

With three episodes left, the series is not stopping at all, and thanks to this excellent episode we can only assume the next hours of the show will be as incredible as what we’ve witnessed so far. The performances, the writing and MacLaren’s sharp direction make this one of the finest episodes of the series and a fantastic hour of television.

Oscar Garza may be reached at [email protected].

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Breaking Bad: “To’hajiilee” recap